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New York's Metropolitan Museum lets visitors climb to cloud nine with Argentinian artist Tomas Saraceno
Visitors look at a structure by Tomas Saraceno called "Cloud City" on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The maker of Cloud City, Argentine artist Tomas Saraceno, wants to provoke the feeling of being in a cloud floating in the middle of several realities. AP Photo/Seth Wenig.

By: Verena Dobnik, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP).- Go ahead. Poke your head in the clouds.

On the rooftop of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Cloud City" welcomes visitors.

Argentinian artist Tomas Saraceno created the 16 stainless steel-framed bubbles, accessible via transparent staircases that take visitors on a journey up, with spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline and Central Park.

Saraceno's first major U.S. commission "blends and reflects the environment," says the 38-year-old artist. "It's multi-reality, it's like a walk in the sky."

So when the sky is blue, "it will get really blue," he says. And "when it's cloudy, you are walking in a kind of cloud scape; somehow you lose your sense of orientation."

The installation — 54 feet long and 29 feet high — is part of the Met's rooftop sculpture program, now in its 15th year.

"What inspired me was the geometry of the soap bubbles or the foam, of how they connect one sphere to the other," says Saraceno.

Or, he adds with a smile, they could be the bubbles that form "when you drink chocolate milk from a bottle."

Sara Theeboom of Sydney, Australia, says she had to get used to walking on cloud nine.

"It's pretty disconcerting. I keep losing my center of gravity and feeling like I am going to fall," she says. "It's very cool, but I wouldn't recommend having a drink before you get in here."

Anne Strauss, the Met's Modern and Contemporary Art curator, says the rooftop program offers visitors the widest variety of artistic styles.

"Our sculpture program up on the roof has increasingly been one to work with living artists who come here and they respond to this remarkable setting," says Strauss.

Saraceno says his work acts as a prism through which to see New York City.

His first impression of the Met roof was of "this wonderful landscape."

"I thought the way to operate was to reflect it," he says. "When you see the piece, actually what you are seeing is what is around you."

Saraceno also had a bigger aim: to challenge future architects to envision spaceship cities that float above Earth.

But even this Earth-bound location took some getting used to for one Manhattan resident.

"You are not necessarily sure-footed on where you are going to put your feet because of the Lucite floor and mirror floor, so you do it very, very slow," says Terry Hudson. "But otherwise, I thought it was really cool."

The exhibit is open, weather permitting, during regular museum hours.

"Cloud City" is scheduled to float away on Nov. 4.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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